Expeditionary Marine Lt. JD Rawlings is nearly as battered and hastily patched as the ship he is assigned to, the Navy frigate Rontar. Scars of recent repair are disturbingly visible on both. But that is not the worst of it, by far.
Lt. Rawlings discovered betrayal, an ambush by the alien Shaquaree, but his method of discovery is seen by many survivors as the catalyst which precipitated the battle. The Shaquaree then nearly annihilated mankind’s best military and diplomatic personnel in a matter of only minutes. Only one ship, the Rontar, with Rawlings aboard, managed to escape the butchery with an emergency Transition-jump. Rawlings wonders if his next action will be defending humanity against the aliens or himself against the crew members who blame him.
When they appear in the Hylea system nothing there makes any more sense than the shocking treachery of the aliens. The system is supposed to be uninhabited, yet there are EM transmissions from the Earth-class planet. There are supposed to be subspace comms with Earth and the remaining Navy and Marine Fleet, yet there are none.
Alone, barely functional, defenseless, can the frigate, the Navy crew, and the few remaining Marines survive long enough to gain answers to the critical questions? Who is sending the EM signals, and why is the Hylea system shaped differently than the star charts indicate? Did those intractable aliens follow the Rontar to finish the job? Why are the alien Shaquaree so apparently dedicated to wiping out humanity?
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to explore some ideas from quantum physics, as well as differences between human values and potential alien values. I wanted to imagine mankind on the brink of extinction from external forces rather than the self-immolation we currently seem to tending toward.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I wanted characters who could grow and improve emotionally and in knowledge-growth. I also needed to both form and break relationships between characters. A strong lead character requires an equally strong antagonist(s), as well as strong supporters and detractors. I did what almost all authors do. I borrowed bits and pieces of various other characters I have seen and heard, and modeled them into my own full characters with both strengths and weaknesses.
I nodded curtly to Lewellyn and left the bridge, passing Lt. Cmdr. Dotes who was working feverishly on a sensor readout station. He glanced at me as I passed by, a grim, worried look highlighted by the fatigue etching deep creases in his face. Lewellyn remained standing before the main 2D vidscreen hanging in what used to be the holo-vid projection space, reviewing the multitude of data points being displayed. I turned my shoulders and ducked my head enough to clear the hatch and headed for Marine country.
The same uneasiness roiled in all our guts . . . fear, spilling out in anger and blame. Did the aliens who betrayed us also follow us to finish the job? Would the great ships of the Shaquaree suddenly appear to launch overwhelming barrages of missiles and beam weapons at the Rontar, just as they had done to the rest of the flagship fleet less than forty-eight hours ago? Thirteen thousand humans had perished in a matter of minutes in the trap sprung so well by the Shaquaree, including most of our top diplomats and military leadership.
And we had fled. Under orders from the admiral of the Fleet, against our wishes, against every fiber of our beings demanding we stay in the fight, the choice to retreat from the carnage was out of our hands.
The mixture of emotions ranged wildly among the two crews, Navy and Marine. Predominantly we were angry, enraged by the betrayal of the Shaquaree and the way they had brought such total destruction to our forces. Directly behind the anger was fear, terror in some, that the aliens might have a way to track our path, to find us, and to bring the same annihilation to us, to the Rontar, while we were yet helpless with no sensors to speak of, no engines, and no communications. We had weapons. We just couldn’t use the damned things.
We were blind, deaf, dumb, and helpless. Easy pickings for an implacable and ruthless enemy. “Desperation.” What an apt description the word wrought. And what a horrible word it was.
Frenetic activity was everywhere as I picked my way through the tumult of the passageways, with sailors of every rating working alone or in groups with all of the same feverishness of Dotes. Robots were much more in evidence than before, cluttering the passageways and working on repairs with silent efficiency in stark contrast to the shouting and sweating and swearing of the human workers.
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